Kings 4, Minnesota 2.

Any later in the season, the Kings’ win Thursday night would be nothing more or less than a straightforward move up in the Western Conference standings.

That special feat deserves its due. It’s not every day that two teams in a dead heat in the standings play each other in a “four-point game.” The Kings have done it twice in the span of two days now, and won both times. In the process they’ve moved up three spots in the standings to fifth.

But my story for tomorrow’s editions — if you got the late edition — focused on the trade deadline, and the man whose two-goal game raised 26 eyebrows in the Staples Center press box. (We journalists aren’t much good at math, but I’m assuming that the credentialed scouts from 13 NHL teams had two eyebrows apiece.)

Wayne Simmonds says he isn’t worried about the deadline, meaning he’s either a cool customer of the Edmonton Journal or he doesn’t read the Edmonton Journal at all. I don’t know how many teams were asking about Simmonds prior to his two-goal game against the Wild, so let’s call that number x. Dean Lombardi might have 3x teams asking about Simmonds between now and Monday, given that 3x 29.

Really, I’m not good at math. Corrections welcome.

Perhaps the lesson from Thursday’s game is that, with the right linemates, Simmonds can be more than just an energy-line forward, for the Kings or whomever his next employer is. Maybe because of Anze Kopitar’s mere presence, Simmonds had plenty of space to fire off both of his goals from a very sweet area of the ice. But he also had the right amount of English on those shots to get them past Kings killer Niklas Backstrom. That wrist shot looked impressive.

Any earlier in the season, and a two-game sequence like Wednesday and Thursday’s could inspire “team-of-destiny” talk. The Kings won by scoring three goals on a season-low 18 shots in Anaheim, then got a 160-foot goal by Kopitar to seal the victory against Minnesota. Defense and goaltending being equal (and they usually are around here), those things just don’t happen.

But the trade deadline is the one point in the season when fans expect their team to upgrade their personnel. Now is not the time to be looking at destiny to carry a team past the first round of the playoffs, but rather the best available forwards on bad teams with attractive contracts.

So the trade rumors will persist, “destiny” and 160-foot goals be damned. That’s why a two-goal game by Wayne Simmonds can’t simply come and go without counting the number of scouts credentialed for the game.

A few more notes:
Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Minnesota 1, Kings 0, SO.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s second-round shootout goal against Jonathan Bernier was the only puck that crossed the goal line in 65-plus minutes of hockey in St. Paul.

Bouchard’s backhand, five-hole beauty came immediately after Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom kicked up his leg — from his belly — to stop Jack Johnson’s shot on the other end. Backstrom stopped Dustin Brown in the third round to seal the win and send the Kings (27-22-2) to their first shootout loss all season.

Bernier was hardly to blame. He got some help from a goal frame en route to a 25-save performance, but made some timely saves and was able to swallow up the big rebounds when he needed to.

That was the encouraging part, along with another typical stingy defensive performance by the Kings, who have a point in four straight games. The Kings will play four back-to-back games this month (beginning tomorrow night in Edmonton), which means Bernier figures to be called upon often.

Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email